Hide or Seeker
Writing can bring one to depths beyond the constraints of their imagination. Sometimes soaring high above the clouds with prose and meaning, subtle and enriching, while at other times, consumed by the dark and dank, bursting in mystery and woe. With the world’s information highway potentially at our fingertips, the temptation to discover is almost awe-inspiring. The Internet offers its many inquisitive explorers a wide berth of facts and tales, with the promise of an endless supply. Is it any wonder then that my search history on my computer should resemble a disturbed and unstable mind?
With the start of each new novel, I am once again presented by the obligation to stay true to my subject matter. I find myself searching high and low for ridiculous facts, counting on the science of epistemology to sift through various theories, -including the time-consuming scrutiny of recognizing and discerning opinion from belief.
I am a jotter, note taker, and connoisseur of human nature, but neither fully a plotter nor a pantser, I call myself a seeker. One of my favorite suspense authors, J.A. Jance, said, “during a newspaper interview ‘I don’t plan. I don't outline. I have hated outlines since sixth-grade geography and I can't do Roman numerals," she says with a laugh. In literature and life, she is her own first audience, and ‘premeditation . . . it kills the suspense. I just like to see where the story goes."* I too admit to writing in much this same way.
As a voracious reader, I have absorbed more than my fair share of language, idiom, and facts, and then, like a magpie, store all my delicious finds in my mind’s vault for later use. I have found that when I am deep in my writing, it is usually my character subplots that are infamous for causing upsets and mayhem. Just when I naively think my story plot is set in stone, these support characters inevitably will sneak in uninvited, commanding attention, and then direct me to explore a whole new set of what ifs, not previously anywhere in the picture. This is when I rush to pry open my vault in search of additional clues and pointers.
Question after question begins to pop up by the dozen. My fingers race across the keyboard in search of answers. A well-reasoned story now becomes an adventure and the author who once was the captain, becomes nothing more than a privileged guest. And this brings me to the crook of the issue. -Just exactly how diabolical would I appear to someone faced with the daunting task of going through my computer history? How can I maintain a healthy mind when it is my job to write about some of the most atrocious aspects of human nature? And lastly, should I hide, and will I get arrested?
I dare say I would be scared of me. I mean, let’s be real. As an author, I have researched countless methods of how to poison someone without a trace, how to wipe away fingerprints from a crime scene, mental health institutions and their practices, an extensive list of drugs and their side effects, -not to mention how long it takes to kill somebody. I have favored forensic web pages that discuss the damage an impact from a blow to the head can cause, the prison system, the legal system and various other diabolical goodies. I spend countless hours searching for just the right word to describe blood splatter and just the precise emotion to describe correctly the seconds before death.
When an idea hits me, I’ll grab anything within reach, -backs of napkins, store receipts, and even used envelopes. I will send myself emails from my cell phone if I ‘hear’ a particularly interesting turn of phrase or witness a raw emotion from across a room, a store, or even stopped at a traffic light. Nobody is safe from my prying and inquisitive mind's eye.
And at night, when I should be resting my gray cells, preparing to drift off into a deep sleep, my dreams betray me and become inundated with plots. Like a director starring in her own film, I ‘watch’ my characters act out their stories. I hear their ‘voices,' celebrate their joys and lay witness their pain. They allow me in to peek, but only if I promise to remain absolutely quiet and unobtrusive. During these REM rituals, I am not given an opinion, merely an observation, and when I awaken, my fingers are back, flying across the keyboard, demanding answers to a whole new set of dilemmas. Almost akin to getting kicked in the face with sand, I am sent back to my almost finished story, and off to research yet another discrepancy that has suddenly reared its ugly head.
My mind begins to travel. I scribble down a list of new questions. I plug the weirdest combinations of words into my search engine and inevitably, something close to or exactly will pop up. This should be enough of a clue as to how demented a whole bunch of us are.
So let’s begin, shall we? - If heading north-east, going the speed of 65mph, how many pints of blood will be lost per minute if a train hits a person, riding on the back of a horse, tied upside down, smoking a cigar? Anyone? Hello?
*Quote gently borrowed from Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds by Cindi Meyers, https://www.autocrit.com/editing/library/plotter-or-pantser-the-best-of-both-worlds/